After a busy and productive week, you get an urgent call from a customer on Friday afternoon. They have a rush job and need it completed by Monday morning. The manufacturing facility operates over the weekend, but you have to add an additional shift to meet the deadline, which is quickly done with a few phone calls. With all details finalized, the project moves forward at a rapid rate. Then something awful happens.
A machine part breaks and functions grinds to a screeching halt. The occupation is seriously delayed and the customer is unhappy. And the manufacturing company is left asking, “What happened, and how can we do better next time?”
The Internet of Things is promising to make these kinds of scenarios obsolete. In the situation above, that part could never have broken because a few weeks before, sensors would have alerted staff that it had replacement.
It would have been immediately ordered and replaced through off-peak hours, and downtime completely avoided. The outcome? The rush job could have lasted on schedule and the customer would have been thrilled, maybe even awarding the company additional work in the near future.
Results such as these are the reason that manufacturing companies are taking a critical look at IoT. In fact, IoT has enabled manufacturers to undergo a 28.5 percent average revenue increase.
Smart Manufacturing: The Nuts and Bolts
Smart manufacturing is about harnessing the power of data and using analytics to run your facility better. Internet of Things technologies can communicate what needs to be done at the exact moment of relevance. Manufacturing equipment can be fitted with sensors to gather data and better understand the machines are operating.
For example, let us say that you are maintaining an expensive and valuable piece of equipment. In the past, the process involved a few basic measures, including:
Measuring how frequently the machinery failed and utilizing a preventive maintenance program that was marginally shorter than the average interval of failure.
Waiting for the gear to fail.
Fixing the gear.
This process is not optimized because it’s using historical instead of real-time data. Using IoT sensors that are strategically placed on the machines empowers companies with more information on equipment health than was previously possible.
A large amount of data is accumulated, but equally important are the insights made available by that data. Today, managers can really understand when equipment requires maintenance and replacement before pressing situations arise. Here are five important benefits of IoT for the manufacturing business to take into account.
Greater Energy Efficiency
Energy is one of the largest expenses for manufacturing firms. Bills arrive a couple of weeks before the close of the billing cycle and emphasize all of the energy used for the entire factory. However, the problem is, these bills detail total energy intake, and there is no way to break down the bill to better understand where specific inefficiencies dwell.
Yet nearly 77 percent of companies reported obtaining energy intake data from their monthly utility bills or electricity tracking tools, which both have limited points of data.
IoT closes that gap, as it helps to collect and understand data right down to device level. Do you have a device that is underperforming? If so, the technology will pinpoint that apparatus so you can figure out how to boost efficiency.
In fact, every piece of machinery on the floor can be tracked and managers can gain granular visibility into energy consumption. Actionable insights are delivered about waste, the way to attain more efficiency from equipment, and even potential failures and regulatory compliance issues.
This real-time data can provide interesting insights, such as off-hour intake, recommendations for optimizing manufacturing schedules and other opportunities for savings. It can even benchmark similar pieces of equipment to determine which machines are performing better and proactively solve problems with underperforming ones.
Similarly, managers can evaluate different locations and pinpoint hidden operational inefficiencies and waste.
Key Takeaway:Manufacturers spend large amounts of money on electricity consumption, however much of that investment is a waste. IoT enables managers to determine where they are losing energy, and fix those problem spots.
One of the largest benefits of IoT from the manufacturing industry is the ability to proactively complete maintenance. You are no longer planning maintenance schedules based on historical information, but instead receiving real-time data to understand maintenance demands at an exact moment.
Sensors provide the relevant data so you can understand the needs of the machine, rather than guessing. This technology drastically cuts waste from the manufacturing equation. If parts don’t require replacement or repair is not required, these resources can be utilized elsewhere, and money and time are saved.
For example, IoT sensors may track the temperature of an important part of manufacturing equipment. If the temperature starts to increase, staff can be alerted to the situation and a predictive solution can be put into action to protect against any potential issues.
Many companies, such as the French rail company SNCF, are already using this technology to forecast maintenance needs proactively.
They are using machine learning to gain insight from the growing volumes of data they’re collecting about their rail network, enabling them to more efficiently detect early warning signs of potential failure and resolve issues before they affect service.
IoT moves critical data out of silos, provides access to new data points via sensors and allows managers to access and understand that data so they can proactively solve maintenance challenges. These contextual insights maintain equipment up and running and minimize the risk of expensive downtime.
Higher Product Quality
Improving the quality of merchandise is a primary goal for manufacturers, according to an IDC report. A higher-quality product leads to many other benefits, such as reduced waste, lower prices, increased customer satisfaction and higher sales. Achieving this goal, however, is not always easy. This is where IoT can help.
One major culprit behind product-quality issues is faulty equipment, whether it has not yet been set correctly, calibrated correctly or maintained. But worse, manufacturers don’t always understand that gear has an issue and as a result, the quality of the product may suffer. And they may not find out before it’s too late.
For example, let us say an auto manufacturer is responsible for applying paint to metal parts. The company has a reputation for doing high-quality work, but one misstep may lead to months of problems.
Without warning, the temperature of the painting station shifts outside the standards. As a consequence, the paint does not adhere to the metal properly, but at first glance, everything looks fine. The product sails through quality control and inspection, and it is not until a year later that customers see the effects. A recall is issued and large amounts of resources are spent correcting the problem.
These types of quality issues have far-reaching effects, resulting in product recalls, lost trust and damage to the brand. Those customers affected may leap to conclusions and assume the faulty paint was the result of cutting corners or using a less superior paint product.
Using IoT can help avoid these kinds of costly issues. Using this technology in play, the paint station could have had IoT sensors embedded to the equipment. At the moment the sensors detected the temperature change, staff members would receive an alert. Employees could then stop production and solve the challenge immediately. As a result, the recall, angry customers, and damaged client relationships would all be avoided.
This technology is also useful in the product design and testing phases. For example, the creation of aircraft, trains and other transportation equipment can be designed with sensors that help measure important components that determine the safety, performance, and durability of the product.
Customer demands are higher than ever, and delivering a subpar product, regardless of cause, can create long-lasting effects. Simple mistakes can be avoided with the use of IoT, which has the ability to lessen quality-control issues and recapture those lost dollars.
Timely, accurate and high-quality production is at the heart of profits. Without reliable manufacturing, companies risk serious reduction. Plus, when a machine stops functioning in the center of a run, the merchandise on the machine can be a total loss, in addition to traditional downtime costs.
For example, let us say an oven breaks at a plant in the midst of a baking run. Upon the failure of the machine, you are struggling not just with downtime, but also with the loss of all the components and associated production period. IoT provides safeguards against these types of losses.
Sensors immediately detect issues from the baking machine at the moment that performance declines. Staff are alerted in real time and the issue can be resolved to minimize any associated downtime costs.
Key Takeaway:Downtime has many costs, and among those costs is the reduction of product during production. In addition, there is also the lost cost of opportunity.
For example, you may get a request for a rush order, but be unable to fill the order because you are down a machine due to unplanned maintenance and repair. IoT helps recapture these costs and minimizes downtime.
Faster, More Informed Decisions
Managers are never in the dark about gear performance and problems if using IoT technology. They may have assumed everything was moving smoothly in the past — until something broke. However, the Web of Things simplifies critical data about performance and allows those insights to flow freely to those who need them most.
Now managers can transform a reactive approach, focused on replacing parts on set schedules using historical data, into a proactive approach, where pressure is reduced, waste is decreased and visibility is elevated. As a result, they can make faster and more informed decisions at the precise moment of relevance.
Key Takeaway: The Web of Things enables managers to make higher quality decisions because they are outfitted with powerful and accurate data at the present time of relevance.
A Real-Time Competitive Edge for the Future
The manufacturing industry is competitive, and companies are constantly looking for an advantage to stay competitive and get ahead. They want to be efficient, operate with greater profitability and serve customers better.
IoT technology provides a powerful set of tools that can deliver these advantages. It takes data that has always been there but was never accessible before and puts it to the hands of people who need it .
As a consequence, managers can transform a state of”putting out fires” into one that is much more efficient and allows for companies to construct new strategies focused on growth and innovation.
Product quality is solid because the equipment is operating optimally, and customers are happier — so the company is positioned with greater strength and resiliency. It is these benefits that make IoT a critical tool for manufacturing companies that want to grow and thrive in the future.